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By E. W. Kemble (1861–1933) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By E. W. Kemble (1861–1933) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

15 Psychological Conditions Named After Literary Characters

By E. W. Kemble (1861–1933) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By E. W. Kemble (1861–1933) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a chemist and you make a crucial discovery, chances are they’ll name the particle or compound after you. But psychologists have always had a liberal arts flair when it comes to their discoveries. Serious psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud and pop psychologists alike have used fictional characters from their favorite stories to describe all sorts of mental conditions. Here are 15 of those literary psych disorders. You’ll probably grow out of that Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan syndrome, but if you’re suffering from Rapunzel syndrome, please: see a doctor.

1. HUCKLEBERRY FINN SYNDROME

Huckleberry Finn syndrome is sometimes used as a loose term for childhood truancy—think unruly kids "going out on the raft to go fishing," or, perhaps more likely these days, kids staying in to play video games. But it also appears in books as a psychodynamic complex. In The Dictionary of Modern Medicine, J.C. Segen explains that it often begins as youthful rebellion but evolves into "frequent job changes and absenteeism as an adult." It’s thought to be a response to parental rejection, or deep-set feelings of inferiority and depression.

2. OTHELLO SYNDROME

In 1955, John Todd and Kenneth Dewhurst published a paper detailing the so-called "Othello syndrome." This Shakespearean moniker referred to "a dangerous form of psychosis … [whose] central theme consists in a delusional belief in infidelity of the spouse." If you’ll recall from high school English class, Othello murders his wife, Desdemona, because he irrationally believed she’d had an affair. Some studies suggest this affliction is most common among older men with a neurological disorder, rather than a psychiatric one. It can lead people to kill their partners or, at the very least, subject them to lie detector tests.

3. POLLYANNA SYNDROME

If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, someone has probably described you as "a Pollyanna," in reference to Eleanor H. Porter’s sunny children’s literature heroine. But some psychologists also use the term "Pollyanna syndrome" to refer to an unrealistic, even dangerous optimism. One study suggests it can negatively impact disabled patients and their families.

4. DORIAN GRAY SYNDROME

Just like Oscar Wilde’s vain creation Dorian Gray, people who suffer from this body dysmorphic disorder have an "obsessive preoccupation with physical attractiveness." They do not handle aging well, and frequently turn to plastic surgery, anti-impotence drugs, or hair plugs to preserve their youth for as long as possible.

5. CINDERELLA COMPLEX

Colette Dowling popularized the term "Cinderella complex" in 1981 with her book of the same name. It described a uniquely feminine condition in which women subconsciously fear independence. As Dowling explained, "Women are brought up to depend on a man and to feel naked and afraid without one… The Cinderella Complex leads to inappropriate or ineffectual behavior on the job, to anxiety about success, to the fear that independence will lead to loss of femininity." This hidden desire for dependency leads afflicted women to seek out a male partner (or "prince") to whisk them away to a figurative castle and dispatch their problems (i.e. evil stepsisters) for them along the way.

6. SUPERMAN COMPLEX

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Depending on who you ask, a "Superman complex" may refer to one of two things. If you ask Dr. Fredric Wertham, the psychiatrist who infamously condemned comic books to a Senate subcommittee in 1954, it’s a damaging condition under which one enjoys fantasies "of sadistic joy in seeing other people repeatedly punished while the hero remains immune." But he’s generally considered a loon today, so you should probably ask Max Carey. Carey wrote The Superman Complex, a book which seeks to diagnose overachieving workers in danger of burning out. According to Carey, people with a Superman complex tend to think they can solve any problem and sacrifice any amount of sleep or food to get the job done. As you might imagine, they’re also manipulative, narcissistic, and difficult to work with.

7. SLEEPING BEAUTY SYNDROME

"Sleeping Beauty syndrome" is the catchier, Disneyfied name for a rare neurological disorder known as Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS). The condition is associated with excessive episodes of sleep that can last for weeks. Any regular activities stop during these episodes; KLS patients can do little more than sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom for the duration of the bout. They may also appear "spacey" and act confused when they are actually awake. Hypersexuality is another symptom. Treatment is tricky for KLS, but its episodes tend to get less frequent after 8 to 12 years.

8. OEDIPUS COMPLEX

The most famous of all the literary-inspired psychological disorders, an Oedipus complex occurs when a son has feelings of desire for his mother, and feelings of contempt for his father (or, in his mind, his rival). Sigmund Freud borrowed the name of Sophocles’ tortured Oedipus Rex protagonist to describe this condition, which he viewed as a normal stage of childhood. Carl Jung later came up with the companion "Electra complex" for girls.

9. PETER PAN SYNDROME

Anyone who’s watched a Judd Apatow movie is well-acquainted with Peter Pan syndrome. Those who have it simply refuse to grow up. They may not don a green cap and attempt to fly, but in their quest to avoid adulthood, they might set impossible goals, abuse alcohol and drugs, and/or lazily search for jobs. Although Peter Pan syndrome is not studied widely, as it is not an officially recognized psychopathology, researchers believe it affects men more than women, and that overprotective parents can play a role in its development.

10. MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME

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Munchausen syndrome was the old name for what we now call factitious disorder. Those diagnosed with the disorder trick others into thinking they’re sick… by causing the symptoms themselves. Their ultimate goal is sympathy, and in order to make their story more believable, they might sign up for painful procedures or even secretly injure themselves. The original name comes from Baron Munchausen, a fictional German nobleman who told wild lies about his achievements. The character was created by writer Rudolf Erich Raspe and was loosely based on a real aristocrat.

11. ALICE IN WONDERLAND SYNDROME

Individuals diagnosed with Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AWS) have a serious problem with perception. Essentially, everyday life for them is like those "Eat Me" and "Drink Me" scenes from Alice in Wonderland: objects appear to be impossibly small or frighteningly large. The disorder primarily affects children and no treatment is currently available. But AWS tends to fade away as kids grow up, usually around their late teens.

12. OPHELIA SYNDROME

As you might recall, Ophelia is Hamlet’s distressed girlfriend in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Dr. Ian Carr borrowed her name for a neuropsychiatric disorder he discovered in his own teenage daughter. First he noticed that some of the "sparkling precision of her conversation" had vanished. Then she started experiencing memory loss, hallucinations, and depression. The mental disorder, they discovered, was spurred by Hodgkin's lymphoma. Its successful treatment restored Carr’s daughter neurologically, for the most part—except she had a large gap of months missing from her memory. Subsequent studies found that patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma often experienced similarly bizarre personality changes prior to detection.

13. BAMBI COMPLEX

The "Bambi complex" isn’t listed by the American Psychiatric Association. Rather, it’s a pop psychology label given to people with overly sentimental attitudes toward wildlife. Environmental historian Ralph H. Lutts used the term in his essay "The Trouble With Bambi," which argued that the Disney movie (which was based on a book) presented a nature fantasy that unfairly demonized hunters.

14. LEAR COMPLEX

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As described by Arpad Pauncz in "Psychopathology of Shakespeare’s 'King Lear,'" the so-called Lear complex is a riff on the Oedipus complex, except the father is the one sexually attracted to his daughter. This was a reference to Lear’s weird fixation on his youngest daughter, Cordelia.

15. RAPUNZEL SYNDROME

Rapunzel was known for letting down her hair, but those who suffer from "Rapunzel syndrome" eat theirs. This exceedingly rare—and exceedingly gruesome—condition is the result of a combination of trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out one’s hair) and trichophagia (the compulsion to eat one’s hair). The consumed hair accumulates into a ball in the stomach, which leads to a whole slew of digestive problems. Just this year, doctors removed two substantial hairballs from the stomach and small intestine of a 38-year-old "Rapunzel" in Arizona. According to the BBC, hers is only the 89th reported case.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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